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Report 1043: Luggage, Lattes and Lunacy

By Palma from California, Spring 2006

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Page 7 of 17: May 25: Half a Block of Montalcino

photo by Palma

Courtyard at L'Olmo

I woke up at 7, packed, and went down for coffee. We planned to leave L’Olmo at 9 (Ida wanted to get home), and actually got out at 9:40. When I left the room, my luggage was by the door. I asked Ida if she wanted to bring our bags down, or ask Ubaldo to get them later. She said, “Oh let’s let him carry them.” I went down for breakfast, and five minutes later, I saw Ida and Gail walking across the courtyard with their luggage on their way to the car. As I was trying not to scream, "Do you EVER do ANYTHING you say you’re going to???", Ubaldo came up behind me and said, “Let me get yours.” You bet! We then went into the office and handed him three credit cards. Ida must have had a moment of remorse, as she asked Ubaldo to put 50 Euro of her bill on my card, and handed me a 50 Euro bill. I was still stressed about money, but as you will see later, there IS a GOD!

We arrived in Montalcino at 10:30 and parked by the fortezza. Gail took off for the museum, and I headed to Bar Mariuuca, busy with customers drinking coffee or munching their morning brioche.

Ida will admit she is “cautious” about carrying money in Italy. She wears one of those passport-under-the-clothes things around her neck, keeps her credit cards separate from her ATM, separate from her cash. She wears a fake wedding ring and thinks I am insane for going to Rome where “everyone gets robbed.” She will not go to Florence or anywhere much south of it because of the “thieves and pickpockets everywhere”. She was really worried when we’ve traveled to Capri and the Amalfi coast, or God forbid, flew out of Naples. The problem with this paranoia is that when she buys something, she has to get through all the zippers, under the appropriate clothing, or the right wallet is somewhere in the trunk of the car, not with her. Ida will not go to an ATM alone and “unguarded” by one of us. She will not go to a public bathroom in a caffé alone, either.

There was one unoccupied table outside in the caffé. I grabbed it and waited for the busy waitress. Ida wanted to go to the rest room, but I wouldn’t give up my table, so I encouraged her to go by herself. She returned, sat for a minute, and then said she would be in the shoe store next door. I finished my latte, and looked forward to spending the day in Montalcino, another of my favorite hill towns, especially after reading Isabel Dusi’s books. I had also been in touch with a Slow Traveler, Nancyhol, who would try to meet us for a lunch GTG.

I joined Ida in the shoe store where she was happily trying on shoes and had decided on two pairs. I bought a purse, and just as I was going to wander off to my linen store across the street, Ida shrieked, “My wallet is gone!” We looked through her purse again, and around the shoe store. I suggested she return to the car and check, as the last time she had her wallet out was when we put money in the parking meter. Maybe it had fallen between the seats. At that moment, I met Nancy and her companion, out on a beautiful morning in Montalcino. I explained the situation with Ida’s wallet, and they were very sweet and supportive. Ida returned to the car, and checked at the tourist office. By then, Gail returned from the museum, and I filled her in. Ida started making calls to her bank, closing accounts, calling her husband, and changing automatic payments. She was missing 300 Euro, and a check/debit card, but still had her credit cards. She began blaming and accusing everyone in Montalcino, from the guy near our parking meter who helped us with directions, to the waiters and German tourists in the caffé.

I took this opportunity to try some banking of my own. I walked into one bank and asked about a cash advance. They said no, but directed me to a bank down the street. I went to the next bank and told a gentleman that my ATM card , “Non sta lavora.” He told me he needed to see. I thought he meant see the card. He needed to see that it didn’t work. He marched me out to the Bancomat machine, we tried the card and got the same annoying message. He smiled,and said in Italian, “Now I see it doesn’t work, we go get the cash advance.” I wanted to kiss his shoes! 45 minutes later, after countless forms, phone calls, signatures, and copies of my MasterCard and passport, I walked out of the bank grinning with 1000 Euro. Nancy and her husband were still standing in the street; Ida was still on the phone with her bank, while Gail stood by supportively, but I HAD MONEY!!! Neener, neener, neener. How does it feel now, folks? Would anyone like some empathy?

It was now 12:45. I dropped off my camera memory card to put my pictures on a CD for Ida, ran into the jewelry store next door and bought inexpensive necklaces, and in ten minutes, came back to Ida, Gail, Nancy, and her companion in the street. Nancy went to get us a table for lunch at Grappola Blu. I picked up my CD and pointed out the restaurant sign to Ida and Gail (still on the phone with the bank). I joined Nancy and Bill and ordered wine. An hour later, still no sign of them. I called Ida’s cell, and they were wandering at the other end of Montalcino, “looking for the restaurant”. I poured another glass of vino, apologized AGAIN to Nancy, and they came in around 2. I ordered melted pecorino with honey, and pinci with ragu. We actually enjoyed lunch, and since we had only made it a half block down the main street, we stopped in a couple of shops that were open again after lunch. I bought a small set of poppy ceramic creamer/sugar bowl, two mugs and a small plate. I added a soap dish and cup for my powder room. Ida and Gail didn’t want to wait while I filled out the shopping form, so they returned to the car. When I got back to the car a few minutes later, there was Ida with her wallet, right where I told her to check… between the seat and the console. After accusing everyone in Montalcino of being a thief and threatening to carry a knife in her purse, she had her wallet.

We drove away from my favorite area of Tuscany with many uncharacteristically unkind thoughts swimming in my head. I SO missed Brad and our lazy, happy days in this area. Sitting in caffés for hours, chatting with locals, afternoon naps, bottles of wine in enotecas. These past three days in southern Tuscany had been rushed, stressful and frustrating to say the least. Brad and I will be back in both Cortona and Montalcino next summer to “undo” these crazy past few days. I felt (one of my mother’s favorite words), “scombussolata” (the Italian word for discombobulated).

On the way back to Vico, we stopped at an Esselunga market for groceries. I bought milk, gorgonzola dolce, Pugliesi taralli, and stocked up on wine. I was a nice person a week ago. In five days I have turned into a resentful, chain-smoking, cheese-stuffing, wino bitch who continues to try to please everyone and avoid conflict.

We schlepped all our luggage and groceries up the hill, steps and stairs, carrying flashlights. It is freezing in Vico. Ida’s cousin, Paul came to visit. He was funny and delightful (son of cheery Zia Agnese). We took out cold cuts, cheese from Pienza, bread, taralli, and enjoyed it with the bottle of Veuve Cliquot he brought us. He also smoked, so he and I took several trips outside. Gail went to bed early, and Paul, Ida and I laughed and talked until 12:30. It was a good ending to a crazy day.

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